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Commentary: INDI Alliance bans 14 anchors; will TV news bodies show some spine?

“Will self-respecting channels respond and shunt the INDI alliance completely? But are they self-respecting? That’s another question altogether,” said a Congress sympathiser

Several leading national news channels of the country on Thursday were taken aback by the decision of the Opposition bloc to boycott their prominent anchors accusing biased coverage.

The list of 14 anchors released by Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera included names such as Navika Kumar, Group Editor, Times Network and Editor-in-Chief, Times Now & Times Now Navbharat; Arnab Goswami, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Republic Media Network and Aaj Tak’s Consulting Editor Sudhir Chaudhary.

News channels were expecting the list following a coordination committee meeting of the Opposition INDI Alliance on Wednesday.

In a bizarre move, the Congress general secretary (in charge organisation) announced publicly in the press conference after the coordination committee meeting.

According to the INDI Alliance, its member parties will not participate in any debate conducted by the news anchors mentioned in the list.

However, BestMediaInfo.com sees this development as a predatory move by the opposition bloc against mainstream media.

It is not the first time that any political party has boycotted any unfavourable channel or anchors.

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, which is a member of the INDI Alliance, is well known for such acts including financial terrorism against any unfavourable coverage by any channel, newspaper or website.

It is widely known that BJP boycotted NDTV in 2014 and prominent current affairs anchor Karan Thapar after Narendra Modi came to power.

However, those were individual cases in which both sides dealt with each other in an equitable manner.

It essentially means that both NDTV and Karan Thapar intensified their attacks on the Modi government and never obliged with any favourable coverage.

On the contrary, the news channels despite being aware that such a list was in the making were found clueless about how to respond.

The television news bodies – News Broadcasters and Digital Association led by ABP Network CEO Avinash Pandey and News Broadcasters Federation led by Goswami – issued a mere condemnation of this list and pleaded before the INDI Alliance to withdraw the list.

The sources in the Congress party told NewsDrum that INDI Alliance had expected such a tepid response from the news channels because they are divided, dependent, spineless and lack self-respect.

“Will self-respecting channels respond and shunt the INDI alliance completely? But are they self-respecting? That’s another question altogether,” said a Congress sympathiser.

BestMediaInfo.com also has interests in general media through its sister company NewsDrum, a leading neutral news platform.

The platforms reiterate that the opposition's move is bizarre considering it made noise about the so-called decline in freedom of the press citing dubious reports.

The platforms believe that when it has been made official by the INDI alliance, what stopped NBDA or NBF from making it official that their member channels will respond in an equitable manner?

It is about protecting the staff members from any predatory move by outsiders. BestMediaInfo.com did so when its former Assistant Editor Raushni Bhagia was trolled by Arnab Goswami immediately after the launch of Republic TV in 2017 and the world knows the result of Goswami’s aggression.

In the absence of a strong message, the prominent faces may feel left out and explore other options in order to protect their self-respect.

The list of anchors:

1. Aditi Tyagi

2. Aman Chopra

3. Amish Devgan

4. Anand Narasimhan

5. Arnab Goswami

6. Ashok Srivastav

7. Chitra Tripathi

8. Gaurav Savant

9. Navika Kumar

10. Prachi Parashar

11. Rubika Liaquat

12. Shiv Aroor

13. Sudhir Choudhary

14. Sushant Sinha

NBDA response:

News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) is deeply anguished and concerned by the decision taken by the I.N.D.I.A. Media Committee not to send their representatives on the shows and events hosted by certain journalists/anchors. The decision taken by the I.N.D.I.A. Media Committee sets a dangerous precedent.

The ban on representatives of the opposition alliance from participating in TV news shows anchored by some of India’s top TV news personalities goes against the ethos of democracy. It betokens intolerance and imperils press freedom.

The opposition alliance claims to be the champion of pluralism and a free press, but its decision betrays a callous disregard for democracy’s most fundamental tenet - the inalienable right to openly express ideas and opinions.

The boycott of certain journalists/anchors takes the nation back to the Emergency era, when the press was gagged, and independent opinions and voices were crushed.

NBDA urges the opposition alliance to withdraw its decision to boycott certain journalists and anchors as such a decision would amount to browbeating journalists and stifling freedom of speech and expression of the media.

NBF response:

The NBF vociferously condemns the undemocratic, Emergency-era directive to boycott 14 select news anchors as part of an undemocratic institutionalised political decision to crush free speech and target the Indian media in a pre-election year.

The blanket decision to ban representation of I.N.D.I.A political alliance’s members on the on-air shows of 14 specific news anchors across broadcast networks in the country is an unprecedented attempt to muzzle the voice of the Indian media through intimidation and singling-out tactics. The I.N.D.I.A. political alliance’s order is clearly an attempt to censor the media in this great country, which prides itself on its wealthy history of free speech, thought and expression.

The statement that has been ascribed to the “I.N.D.I.A Media Committee” has unilaterally sounded the ushering of an Emergency-like mindset once again. To make an institutional political decision against handpicked journalists of established stature is a clear and outright onslaught against free speech through systemic targeting of the media.

It is a blot on India’s democratic principles and a grave assault on Article 19 of the Indian Constitution for the pre-election political alliance I.N.D.I.A to be out rightly tinkering with the country’s rich history of being a free and vibrant press.

The NBF wholly condemns this clear instance of political parties and alliances targeting journalists across news networks as a pre-election agenda. We strongly urge the “I.N.D.I.A Media Committee” to revoke its draconian order with immediacy.


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